Patsy Cassidy: Stalwart of Slaughtneil loved life and was generous to a fault
WHEN Patsy Cassidy pulled down the shutters of his shop for the final time 30 years ago, he could have been forgiven for looking forward to a quiet retirement.
For five decades he had worked early mornings and late evenings in the grocery trade, juggling his own business in Main Street, Maghera with the responsibilities of rearing seven children.
But rather than slow down as he left the world of work behind, Patsy and his wife Mary just stepped up the pace of life.
As their adult children were heading for bed at the weekend, they would be getting ready to go out dancing - from Kilrea to Cookstown, they rarely missed a chance for a night out.
The shop van was converted into a camper van so they could tour the country together.
They joined pilgrimages with the Derry diocese, travelling to Medjugorje, Lourdes, Rome and the Holy Land.
And when they were home, the house was never empty as they would ceili the evening away with neighbours and friends. Any excuse for a family gathering was gladly taken.
Patsy was also a proud supporter of Sleacht Néill GAA club and closely followed its fortunes from its formation in 1953.
He was a lesson to anyone that life does not end with retirement, and the tributes following his death truly celebrated a life well lived.
Michael Patrick Cassidy - named after twin brothers who had died the year before - was born on a small farm in Slaughtneil in 1926, the tenth and last surviving member of a family of 14 to John Joe and Mary Anne.
He went to Tirkane School and after finishing at 14 began working with Noone's in Maghera, now one of the Sleacht Néill sponsors.
He started as the helper on the Austin van which went around homes selling groceries and lifting eggs.
Patsy soon graduated to driver and for 25 years was a familiar face across south Derry and into Antrim.
Among the lanes he passed each day was that of Mary Lagan's, a teacher from Brackaghreilly, and after getting a neighbour to 'put in a word' they were marred in St Patrick's Church, Glen in July 1959.
He and Mary bought a bit of ground in Fallagloon and built the family home.
In the mid-1960s Patsy opened his own grocery shop in Maghera, where he remained until his retirement in 1990.
The shopping bags proclaimed 'Quality is remembered when prices are forgotten' and he lived by that motto, a country grocer at the heart of the community.
Patsy was a great man within his parish, always available to park cars or provide food at wakes, funerals and other functions.
In the 1960s and 70s he helped organised ceilis in Brackagh hall and invited Santa for the children, and when St Patrick's, Maghera were in football finals he was always on hand with refreshments for the boys and girls.
He was generous to a fault, a man who grew up in hard times and wouldn't hesitate to reach out the hand to someone in trouble.
That was Patsy: he could talk to anyone, but he always backed it up with actions.
While he lived in and was at the heart of Glen parish, Patsy was always maroon to the core as a follower of Sleacht Néill.
An honorary president of the club, in retirement he barely missed a match at senior or underage levels as he supported his 22 grandchildren.
Highlights were the underage successes of the late nineties, the senior hurlers' first Ulster final appearance in 2000, and the footballers' first county senior title in 2004.
Many more great days would follow in football, hurling and camogie as Sleacht Néill embarked on a remarkable run of success.
When the Emmets secured their first All-Ireland camogie title, Patsy found himself surrounded by the camogs for photographs on the pitch at Croke Park.
When the footballers got to the final, he bought 30 tickets in three blocks of 10 for the family to be in Croke Park together.
On his 90th birthday, a family gathering saw 35 specially commissioned maroon and white jerseys with the Cassidy coat of arms presented to remember the milestone.
Just the week before his death aged 94 he attended both the county camogie final replay and a county football final.
Remembered at his funeral as a stalwart of the community, Michael Patrick Cassidy died peacefully on October 11 surrounded by his loving family.
He is survived by his devoted wife Mary and children Francis, Maria, Roisin, Patrick, John Joe, Margaret and Breige.